Chapters 1 – 12 of the Book of Isaiah concludes his message of judgment and hope. Beginning in chapter 13, the prophet turns his attention to Babylon as he begins a series of oracles against various nations. Isaiah will have something to say, not just about Babylon, but about other nations who are characterized by acts of immorality and injustice.
God vs the Nations: Twelve Divine Oracles Against…
Babylon: Isaiah 13:6-22
Assyria: Isaiah 14:24 – 28
Philistia: Isaiah 14:28 – 32
Moab: Isaiah 15:6-14
Syria and Israel: Isaiah 17:1-5
Ethiopia: Isaiah 18:1-6
Egypt: Isaiah 19:1-25
Egypt and Cush: Isaiah 20:1-6
Babylon (again): Isaiah 21:1 – 10
Edom: Isaiah 21:11 – 12
Arabia: Isaiah 21:13 – 17
Jerusalem (Judah): Isaiah 22:1- 25
Tyre: Isaiah 23: 1- 14
The Oracle Concerning Babylon: Isaiah 13:1-14:23
Because people learn by repetition, and because grace precedes judgment, Isaiah warns Babylon and Israel, time and again, that judgment is coming. It is only a matter of time. As Babylon had replaced the Assyrian Empire, Babylon will be replaced, because the Babylonian kings decided they were higher than God Himself. Such is the pride of national leaders which always produces a decline in the social fabric of the nation.
The Fall of Lucifer: Isaiah 14:4 – 21
The story of the fall of Lucifer is described in two important Old Testament chapters, Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. Attention is drawn to the passage in Isaiah.
The context of Isaiah 14 may refer to a human king in verses 4 through 11, an actual king of Babylon who, because of his cruelty and pride, lost his exalted position among the leaders on earth. Then, in verse 12 through 17 the king of Babylon becomes a typology of another prideful ruler who lost his exalted place, in heaven.
The fall of Lucifer, in particular, is traced to the sin of pride. In unholy arrogance, five times in his heart Lucifer declared what he would do.
“I will ascend into heaven.”
“I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.”
“I will sit upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.”
“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.”
“I will be like the Most High.”
Like their father the Devil, the unrighteous will eventually declare their purpose or design, which is why, when people talk about the evil they will do, they should be believed. Truly, “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).
The Oracle Concerning Assyria: 14:24 – 27
The Lord promised that He would break the Assyrian in the land, which He did. When the Assyrian king Sennacherib brought a large army into the land of Judah, God broke all of his regiments by the sword of a destroying angel (2 Kings 19). A principle is established. The Lord will protect those who are in a covenant relation with Him in as far as they keep His laws and honor Him. God needs no help from men to do His work. “I will break the Assyrian”, says the Lord. How comforting it is when the people can say with meaning, “In God we trust.”
The Oracle Concerning the Philistines: Isaiah 14:28 – 32
c. 726 BC
Assurance is given for the destruction of the Philistines and their military power. This prophecy came in the year that king Ahaz died, which was the first year of the reign of Hezekiah. A good king followed a bad one. So it is that when there is reformation in the heart, good news from heaven can be expected, but not until then.
The Oracle Concerning Moab: Isaiah 15:1 – 16:14
c. 725 BC
Because Moab made an alliance with Babylon against their brethren in Judah in 586 BC, the Lord used Nebuchadnezzar to destroy the Moabites in 582 BC. When anyone comes against the Lord and His people, the Lord knows how to make them howl. “In the streets of Moab, Isaiah predicted the time would come when the people “shall gird themselves with sackcloth: on the tops of their houses, and in their streets, everyone shall howl, weeping abundantly” (Isaiah 15:3).
The Oracle Concerning Damascus (Syria) and Israel: Isaiah 17: 1 – 14
c. 712 BC
The Oracle Concerning Cush (Ethiopia): Isaiah 18: 1 – 7
Cush was a nation located south of Egypt. The Hebrew word Cush has been traditionally translated Ethiopia, following the Septuagint. The wife of Moses was from Cush (Num. 12:1). Job noted that precious stones came from Cush, “the topaz of Ethiopia” (Job 28:19). For centuries Cush was a consistent enemy of Egypt, and sometimes victorious, but more often subdued by strong pharaohs. Isaiah anticipates the defeat of the Egyptian army at Carchemish in 605 BC. The people of Cush were tall and smooth skinned (Isaiah 18:2, 7). Isaiah promised that those who fled from Judah to Cush would be divinely delivered (Isa. 11:11; Zeph. 3:10).
The Oracle Concerning Egypt: Isaiah 19:1 – 25
The prophesy against Egypt was intended to discourage Judah from seeking an alliance with the Egyptians against Assyria. God would have His people believe in Him, and depend upon His power to protect them. In 711 BC Isaiah foretold the defeat and captivity of the Egyptians, which came to pass 701 BC. The archeological annals of the king of Assyria, Sennacherib (705 – 681 BC), records what happened. “I fought with the kings of Egypt, accomplished their overthrow, and captured alive charioteers and sons of the king.” The heir of Sennacherib, and his son, Esarhaddon (681 – 669), also came and devastated Egypt (Isaiah 19:1–4).
The Oracle Concerning Egypt and Ethiopia: Isaiah 20: 1 – 7
The prophets of God were frequently commanded to illustrate their prophetic words with a sign. Isaiah was commanded to undress, and walk through the streets of Israel naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20:1). For three years Isaiah was to minister in this fashion in order to illustrate God’s judgment on Egypt and Ethiopia at the hands of the Assyrians.
The Second Oracle Concerning Babylon: Isaiah 21:1 – 10
The prediction of the fall of Babylon was given by Isaiah in chapter 13. Here, the prophet returns to the subject, for grace precedes judgment. God warns, and warns people again, in order to give individuals a chance to repent so that no one is without hope, and no one has an excuse for not obeying the gospel. Though Babylon often pretended to be a friend to Israel (39:1), they could not be trusted. The Bible tells Christians not to be a friend of the world. Church, do not desire to be like the unconverted. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Only the Lord can be trusted to be faithful, for He has said to His people, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
The Oracle Concerning Edom: Isaiah 21:11 – 12
The Oracle Concerning Arabia: Isaiah 21:13 – 17
The Oracle Concerning Jerusalem and Shebna: Isaiah 22:1 – 25
After the fall of Jerusalem in 722 BC, Hezekiah, the king of Judah, revolted against the Assyrian oppressors (2 Chronicles 29 – 32). Hezekiah met with some initial success as he strengthened the defenses guarding the Holy City by adding a new wall (2 Chron. 22:5; Isaiah 22:10). The city of Jerusalem then covered 150 acres, with a population of about 25,000.
According to the prophet Isaiah, the Lord had a controversy with Shebna (He came near), the royal scribe and palace steward under King Hezekiah, c. 715 BC (2 Kings 18:18, 37; 19:2; Isaiah 22:15-25). The Lord was determined to demote Shebna, and elevate Eliakim (God raises) to the office of steward. Eliakim would be a type of the Messiah. Shebna would fall from power, and die as an outcast due to his great pride (Isaiah 22:15-25).
The downfall of Shebna is a reminder that no matter how high a person may go in society, even into the royal court as a high official, the Lord would have His people live righteously, and without being ostentatious.
The exaltation of Eliakim is also a reminder that unless the Lord promotes you, you are not promoted. Selfish ambition, and ruthless self-advancement, will come to nothing. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold” (Prov. 22:1).
A Type of Christ
Eliakim / Christ
A faithful steward / A faithful Servant John 6:38
Given the Key to the House of David / Possesses the Key of David Rev. 3:7
A man of honor / Worthy of worship Rev. 5:12
Appointed by God / Anointed by God Acts 10:38
Protected the resources entrusted to him / Loses none of His sheep John 17:12
A man secure in his office and future / Priest and King forever / Psalms 110:1, 4; Heb. 5:10
The Oracle Concerning Tyre: Isaiah 23:1 – 18
Isaiah gives a highly poetic description of the destruction that would fall upon Tyre. The shipping industry was to be devastated. The ships from Tarshish (Spain) would have no port to enter. The silver of Tarshish (Jer. 10:9), along with its iron, tin, and lead, would find no market in Tyre (Ezek. 27:12, 25).
The reason why the ancient city of Tyre was to be laid waste (Isaiah 23:1) is given. The people were pagan in their beliefs. About 870 BC, Ahab married Jezebel, the daughter o the Phoenician king of Tyre, and brought the worship of Baal into the courts of Israel (1 Kings 18:19; Ezekiel 28). The news of Tyre’s destruction would cause alarm among other nations, such as Chittim (Cyprus).
The principle of cursing by association is brought forth in Israel’s relationship to the godless Phoenicians, whose two major ports were Tyre and Sidon. Those who entwine themselves with the world shall be judged with the world. God’s people are to be separate from the world, while being in it. The royal command comes. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
The world has a philosophy of life. Individuals are to live by the lust of the flesh, if it feels good, do it, the lust of the eyes, as materialism and covetousness is encouraged, and the pride of life, look out for number one. Take as many selfies as possible. In contrast, Christians are to be guided by another philosophy of life, even the life of the Spirit in Christ Jesus. Moral purity and self-control is preferred to licentiousness. Giving is to triumph selfishness. Humanity is to replace self-promotion.
As Isaiah foretold, the time came when God’s judgment fell upon the proud city. The city was caught up in the Phoenician wars with Assyria during the seventh century BC. In 587 BC, the Babylonians, who had triumphed over the Assyrians, laid siege to Tyre. After 13 long years of resistance (585 – 572 BC), the mainland city of Tyre was captured. Many years later, the island city of Tyre fell to the mighty power of Alexander the Great, who built a causeway over half a mile long in order to reach the city in the sea. Alexander completely destroyed the city in 332 BC, through it was later rebuilt, and became an important outpost during the Greek and Roman period.
Despite its troubled past, and divine judgment, in matchless grace, the gospel found its way to the Tyrians. Phoenicians were among those who heard Jesus Himself teach about the Kingdom of God (Luke 6:17). Following the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, some Christians fled to Phoenicia where they preached Christ only, as the way of salvation (Acts 11:19). The apostle Paul travelled through Phoenicia during his missionary journeys,s so that it can be said that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound (Acts 15:3; 21:2-3).